If a helmet fails to properly protect against a sudden impact, the manufacturer may be liable for the resulting damages.
While this article will focus on helmets (motorcycle helmets, football helmets, batting helmets, bicycle helmets, etc.) which fail to protect the user, and why this may open the manufacturer up to litigation under product liability law.
Many motorcycle riders make the responsible decision to wear a helmet in order to reduce the risk of serious injury in the unlikely event of an accident. Unfortunately, some helmets fail to do the job they’re designed to do, and can actually be a contributing factor in a serious head injury or wrongful death accident.
Despite regulations put into place by the government and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, not all helmets are equal and some may even be defectively designed.
Motorcycle helmet regulations and defects.
Motorcycle helmets are generally regulated by the Department of Transportation and bicycle helmets by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Even with strict regulation, a manufacturer defect is still a very real possibility. A lawsuit relating to a defective helmet would fall under the category of “product liability” law.
There is no doubt that motorcycle helmets greatly reduce serious injury and have the ability to save lives. For instance, in 2010, experts believe that helmets saved more than 1,500 motorcyclists from untimely deaths. Of course, for a motorcycle helmet to be effective it must be well-manufactured, sturdy, and be in compliance with all design and safety standards as directed by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The regulations imposed by DOT place grades on motorcycle helmets based on their compliance with federal standards. In order for a motorcyclist to ensure the greatest amount of protection from his or her helmet, he or she needs to choose one that is totally in compliance with the standards set by the Department of Transportation.
Other types of helmets.
While we often think of defective helmets in terms of bicycle or motorcycle riders, the reality is that even hardhats and sports helmets such as those worn by football players can have disastrous results when manufacturing defects are present. In fact, a recent 2014 study by researchers at Virginia Tech University tested the safety of 23 of the most popular football helmets and found that many football helmets used in schools today are inherently unsafe.
A Dallas news station recently discovered that four school districts just in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex (DeSoto ISD, Lewisville ISD, Fort Worth ISD, and Garland ISD) reportedly have a one star helmet in their current inventory (the Riddell VSR4 helmet). Many of these districts are working to replace these helmets, but it just goes to show how prevalent this problem really is.
More-recently, nearly 6,000 football helmets manufactured by Xenith (Epic Varsity, X2 Varsity, X2E Varsity, and even Youth football helmets) have been recalled because “they can crack and increase the risk of a head injury.” It is not currently known just how many schools and athletes in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex may still be using these faulty helmets.
Lawsuits resulting from defective helmets.
A motorcyclist purchased two Fulmer AF-50 helmets and sold one to a friend who later suffered a fatal brain injury when he was involved in an accident while wearing the helmet. The original purchaser discovered that in August 2002 the AF-50 helmet had failed safety tests that were conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as required under the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218 (required for DOT certification).
The customer filed a class action lawsuit against the manufacturer on behalf of all the consumers who had purchased the helmets after the date they failed the NHTSA test. According to the lawsuit, the helmets provided inadequate protection and the manufacturer misrepresentation that the helmets met DOT guidelines. The lawsuit alleges that in August 2002 (when the testing was performed) some of the helmets failed the “impact attenuation test.” This safety test measures the degree of penetration the helmet can withstand during impact, and despite the fact these helmets failed the test, Fulmer Helmets allegedly continued promoting them as being approved by DOT and failed to notify consumers of any safety issues. Not only that, but they took no measures to recall or redesign the faulty helmets.
With regard to football helmets, at least three lawsuit have recently been filed against Riddell over claims that the company failed in its duty to protect athletes from long-term head injuries, and that Riddell did not adequately educate consumers about risks such as traumatic brain injury (TBI) and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
One lawsuit alleges that Riddell actually misrepresented the safety of its “Revolution” line of helmets by using a self-funded study to promote its helmets as “significantly reducing the risk of concussions compared with other manufacturers’ helmets.” The company claimed that athletes wearing the helmet were 31 percent less-likely to suffer a concussion. In response, one biomechanics firm sent Riddell a report showing that no football helmet—no matter how revolutionary—could prevent concussions.
Some potential problems involving all helmets include the following:
- Material that is not resistant to impact.
- Defects in helmet fasteners that cause the helmet to move from its original position.
- Lack of compliance to safety standards and testing.
Another problem that can contribute to a person’s injuries is a defective chin strap on a motorcycle helmet—this can (of course) lead to the helmet coming off during a motorcycle accident, leaving the rider completely vulnerable.
Learn the options available to you.
If you or a loved one has suffered injuries because of a defective helmet, our Dallas attorneys can help you obtain compensation for those injuries. To find out what we can do to help you, fill out the contact form on this website or call our office at 1-877-405-4313 to schedule a free consultation with one of our personal injury lawyers. We can investigate your case for free and thoroughly discuss your legal options moving forward.